Football reform for children: a revolution with small goals in full swing

Status: 9/9/2022 3:29 PM

The major reform of children’s play operations is already occupying many football clubs. It’s all about costs and details – and the role of the coach.

The long-running reform of children’s play operations occupies many football clubs across Germany. Although the so-called new play formats are only mandatory from the 2024/2025 season, many leagues and state districts are already operating without the classic seven-for-seven club encounters.

According to the German Football Association (DFB), 60 percent of the 21 state associations are already changing their regular playing operations across the board for G-Juniors – also known as Bambini, U6 or U7. Children play on several playgrounds in two on two or three on three on four small targets.

Hack for Horst Wayne Voino

This form of play has been known as the Funino since the 1980s, and is an invention of former National Hockey League coach Horst Wayne. With Funino, children have greater contact with the ball and a sense of accomplishment, scientific studies have shown. On the other hand, in the game of sevens in batting, the weakest kids do not participate in the game, and the best players on the team have 80 percent of the ball’s movements.

The German Football Association is now reforming the game in the hope that children will stop getting frustrated so often and develop so well that they are available as talented in the football league.

“Growth with Requirements”

This futuristic game play guide for E, F and G guys provides a gradual transition into the game on the big pitch. The older the kids, the bigger the teams and the more big goals and goalkeepers – for the first time in the first year of youth F. “Kids can grow up according to the demands,” says Marcus Herti, head of talent promotion at the German Football Association.

In youth electronic clubs (U10 and U11), duels can optionally be held between clubs with six and six or seven on seven. Secondary fields should ensure that substitute players are also challenged.

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DFB Guide provides two different game variants to choose from for every age group. In practice, there are likely to be much more deviations, because in many places the details of children’s play operations are traditionally determined by district associations.

The sports show has written to all 21 state federations about how they would like to implement the formats of the game. Everyone replied that they wanted to follow the guidelines of the German Football Association. But there are differences in the details. For example, the Football Association and Athletics of Westphalia (FLVW) recommends two goals instead of four small goals in three goals versus three in Bambini. The reason for this, among other things, is regulatory effort and lower cost, writes FLVW. Practice will show how well children can score goals.

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Popular movement with pioneers

The reform was preceded by several years of pilot projects and intense discussions. In some areas, new forms of play have been practiced for some time by grassroots movements or progressive officials. For example, the Württemberg Football Association indicated that it implemented the first experimental play days for children in March 2011. In 2018, the association decided that Bambini and children’s play days should be carried out according to the Funino principles.

However, in other areas, new forms of play are hardly widespread. Some coaches or base officials reject the plans on principle because they think the changes are too drastic. Others have concerns about detail questions. If you want to organize a game day according to new forms of play, you ideally need 16 mini-goals, which can cost up to 200 euros. “I expect from the DFB that when it prescribes new forms of play, it also contributes to the costs required for implementation,” wrote Rainer Loefer, youth leader at the Saarland Football Association.

Discussion about costs and regulation

However, the DFB is not planning any direct financial support for the time being. Among other things, it refers to creative solutions, for example that visiting clubs can achieve goals, and support from government associations. Some donate small goals, while others offer loan goals or discounts.

Another challenge for club volunteers is the complex and extensive organization of game festivals. It would be useful, at least for the little ones, to have an accompanying person on each playground. DFB notes that parents can also take on this task. Because they just have to make sure all the kids are in the right place and the game runs reasonably smoothly.

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Loud requests and tactical instructions from outside, on the other hand, are not desirable anyway, not even from coaches, says the head of talent promotion at the German Football Association, Hertie: “Kids don’t have space to develop things themselves and gain experience. They always do what they do. It is dictated from the outside. This incredibly limits children’s development.”

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So coaches should take a step back and allow children to play as independently as possible – even in training sessions. Hurtie advises “to try more, to accompany more, to ask more questions than to give answers.”

The German Football Association wishes to convey this self-image as widely as possible, and also by offering a children’s coach certificate. This course is much cheaper and more compact than a classic instructor license. The basic idea: Street football should enter the clubs. “We want to create a framework in which children can develop, where they can develop things independently and sometimes make mistakes,” Hurtie says.

effect on training

Funino is the most appropriate form of gameplay for this approach. The German federation is betting that it will be played more in training. After all, Funino will be the go-to for the little ones’ weekend ahead – when all regions come into play by 2024 at the latest.


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